At Pacuare Lodge, we are full committed to sustainable tourism. This means we strive to limit any negative impacts of our operations. At the same time we have created strong programs to help support conservation and benefit nearby communities. This policy is by no means limited to the Lodge – it extends through our entire company, from the main office to the warehouses where we store our rafts. The following are just some of the steps we’ve taken to improve our relationship with the environment.

A Socially and Environmentally
Sustainable Project in Costa Rica.

Sustainable construction and cultural connections.

The Pacuare Lodge was built with minimal impact on the surrounding forest and river. No trees were cut to accommodate the bungalows and main lodge; our buildings use lumber from a reforestation project run by small farmers. The thatch roofs were made by local Cabécar Indians in their traditional style using palm leaves collected in our forest reserve.

Carbon-neutral tourism.

Aventuras Naturales, our parent company, was the first adventure travel company to acquire parcels of primary forest in this area solely for the purpose of conservation.

Over the years, we’ve purchased 340 hectares (840 acres) of primary rainforest along the Pacuare River both to protect the local ecosystem and to offset the atmospheric carbon created by our vehicles. The end result is that our tours are carbon neutral.

Some of that forest was in danger of being cleared before we purchased it, but is now strictly protected in order to conserve the flora and fauna that lives there.

Because our goal is preservation of this untouched virgin rainforest, no visitors are allowed into this area.

Details protect water

The lodge’s bathrooms are equipped with biodegradable soap and shampoo and the water for their showers is solar heated. All the lodge’s wastewater flows into state-of-the-art septic systems to avoid pollution of the nearby river.

We generate our own electricity.

Bungalows are illuminated with lanterns and candles and what little electricity used at the lodge is clean energy generated by a turbine in a nearby stream.

Organic food is the rule, not the exception.

We use organic products as much as possible in meals served at the lodge and on rafting tours.

Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica’s Rainforest

Sustainable tourism should improve the lives of local people, and we’ve made donations and initiated projects in the communities nearest to the Pacuare Lodge. Infrastructure in our remote area is sparse and poorly maintained, and there are few employment opportunities, which is why we make a point of hiring local people. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Local staff

All Pacuare Lodge staff is from nearby communities and 95% of our rafting guides are from Turrialba, the closest city to the lodge.

Community support.

We donate school supplies and other materials to three primary schools in the communities nearest to the lodge and we accept donations from our guests, transferring them to the schools in their entirety (no administrative fees deducted).

The Pacuare Protected Zone .

In the Caribbean region of Costa Rica there is a protected zone of incomparable beauty that begins near the town of Siquirres and covers approximately 25,000 acres as it descends down the Talamanca Mountain Range.

This is the area known as Pacuare, which constitutes one of the most important protected areas in the region. Its proximity to the lowlands and its high annual rainfall combine to nurture the complex life systems whose abundance makes for extraordinary scenic beauty.

Located within this zone, the Pacuare River forms the northern border of Central America’s most important network of national parks and reserves and offers some of the finest white water in Latin America.

Officially designated a “Wild and Scenic River,” the water flows deep inside remarkable primordial rainforest, coursing through a wilderness of dense vegetation that covers the sides of steep gorges rising above the riverbanks. The rainforest’s thick undergrowth provides shelter to jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, sloths, and numerous other species of mammals and birds.

Deep inside the Pacuare Protected Zone, perched on the banks of this enchanting river, lies the singular Pacuare Lodge. Visitors to our lodge can enjoy a truly memorable Pacuare Adventure as they soak up the natural beauty and tranquility of this magical jungle hideaway.

Outreach Programs.

Not only do we work hard to make sure that our business works well with nature, we also strive to involve the people we work for, with, and around. Here are some of our outreach efforts that we have implemented into local schools, communities, and our own backyard.

Community Support Program

Pacuare Lodge believes responsible tourism should benefit and respect local communities and it consistently works toward this goal. The Lodge is located in a remote area which as a result has been poorly maintained over time by local governments mainly due to its inaccessibility by conventional means. Its Community Support Program works to enhance the living standards of people along the Pacuare River and near the lodge by improving the infrastructure in this area.

It also supports local schools and provides funds to purchase stationery and other requirements as well as support sports and other social programs in the area. It has restored the cable car service which local residents use to cross the river.

A 100% of the Pacuare Lodge staff belongs to the closer communities Nairi Awari, Bajos del Tigre and Linda Vista. Pacuare Lodge provides direct or indirect employment to these communities that before lacked any source of formal employment. Their main income used to come from subsistence coriander cultivation and cattle raising.

Today, tourism represents 20% of jobs in nearby communities. Of those, Pacuare Lodge represents 70% of the tourism jobs.

Environmental Education

In addition to teaching our guests about the ecology of the surrounding rainforest, the Pacuare Lodge has launched an environmental education program for schools in nearby communities. Our goal is to raise awareness among local elementary school students of the importance of protecting their environment, and to promote the adoption of good practices that will help them have a more balanced relationship with nature, to live in an ever-healthier environment, and preserve natural resources for future generations.

The project began with a bibliographical review of books, magazines and Internet sites covering the varied themes and methodologies of environmental protection. Then teams of river guides and Pacuare Lodge employees were trained to give presentations at local schools. The presentations emphasize sustainability, in a practical, simple way, and urge the kids to adopt good habits, emphasizing the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This theme is reinforced during the snack shared during each visit, since we use only non-disposable containers, cups and plates. The children also plant native tree saplings around their schools and communities. Among the principal issues we want the children to understand are:

• The importance of water in their environment and the need to conserve water and protect water sources.
• The importance of energy for human beings and the tools and techniques for conserving it.
• Basic concepts about the local flora and fauna and the principals of their protection.
• The basic principles of managing garbage in our communities.

Howler Monkey Reintroduction

More than 20 years ago, we started rafting the Pacuare River and organizing overnight trips where we would camp at solitary spots in the rainforest. I was always intrigued by the fact that I never encountered monkeys on the river’s left bank, which is oddly enough the side with more primary tropical forest. For years, I had wondered why there weren’t any primates there. I’d heard all kinds of explanations, but the most probable one is that they were victims of hunting.

Whatever the reason there weren’t monkeys in those marvelous tropical forests, I felt I had to do something about it. For many years, I’d been researching how to reintroducing monkeys in the area. Eventually, I got in touch with a group of scientists at the University of Costa Rica, lead by Gustavo Gutierrés Espeleta Ph.D. and Ronald Sánchez M.S., who together with a group of biologists and students managed to make this project a reality.

The researchers located an area near the Pacuare, approximately one hour away by 4x4 vehicle, where agricultural expansion has destroyed practically all of the natural forest that was home to primates. The selected area has cattle ranches and palm plantations with small patches of trees and bushes where a troop of howler monkeys had taken refuge. But there was no other place from them, and no corridor that the monkeys could use to move to a forested area. The monkeys had nowhere to go.

Bringing Howler Monkeys Back to Our Forests

The team of scientists captured an entire troop of monkeys and brought them to the Pacuare Lodge, which is the base for reintroducing and monitoring the howler monkeys. The howler monkeys were immediately released and the biologists began to log their activity, movements through the forest, process of adaptation, signs and sounds with which the demonstrated their acceptance of the area, the trees the feed on, and more.

The study showed that after two weeks in the Pacuare Lodge’s reserve, the monkey’s adaptation process was developing excellently. In fact, a female that arrived pregnant gave birth during the second week there, and all the signs since then have been encouraging.

This project, which is sponsored by the Pacuare Lodge in cooperation with the University of Costa Rica, is an important step for us in our commitment to the environment and sustainability. It is but one component of our robust conservation program.

Jaguar Programs

Another important component of our commitment to environmental protection and sustainable tourism is supporting a project to study jaguars in the Pacuare Protected Zone.

Costa Rica Nature Adventures recently signed an agreement with Dr. Eduardo Carrillo, a professor in the Wildlife Management Program at Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional, to study jaguars in the forest along the Pacuare River.

Our lodge serves as a base for biologists working on the study.

In addition to providing the researchers with food and lodging, Costa Rica Nature Adventures will provide logistical support. We purchased 24 digital cameras that the biologists have placed on game trails in the forest at two-kilometer intervals in order to capture images that can help them to estimate the jaguar population, and the abundance of prey species.

Why Do We Support Jaguars?

According to Roberto Fernández, founder and co-owner of Costa Rica Nature Adventures, this collaboration is a result of his growing concern about conservation and the environment. “During 20 years of contact with the Pacuare’s amazing natural beauty, I’ve felt a need to contribute to the preservation of its ecosystems. It is as if the river were constantly reminding me of the importance of doing something to relieve the environmental problems that we are causing,” he said.

The largest feline in the Americas, the jaguar was once common from the southwest United States to northern Argentina, but it has been eliminated from more than half of its original range during the past century. Those spotted cats continue to be threatened by hunters and ranchers in Costa Rica, where they are increasingly restricted to isolated protected areas that are too small to sustain their species.

According to Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Regional Vice-President of Conservation International, the study site lies in an essential area for jaguar conservation within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, since it is between the vast wilderness of the Talamanca Cordillera and the forests of Turrialba Volcano.

“The opportunity to support jaguar research is fascinating because it’s such an extraordinary animal,” explained Fernández. “Our hope is that this project will contribute to the development of conservation policies to protect these endangered felines.”

The jaguar project complements our comprehensive sustainable tourism policy, which includes efforts to decrease the lodge’s environmental footprint, benefit communities near the Pacuare River, and contribute to conservation. Those efforts range from recycling programs at all the company’s facilities to planting trees on former pastureland near the river and using wood from reforestation projects in construction of the Pacuare Lodge. Much of the jaguar research will take place in the company’s 258-hectare (637-acre) nature reserve along the Pacuare River, which has been purchased bit by bit in an effort to protect the area’s flora and fauna.

“Our philosophy is to give something back to nature, which has given us so much, and to harmonize our activities with nature’s processes,” noted Fernández. “We are trying to educate people, raise awareness, and motivate local communities in order to work together for sustainable development.”

Pacuare River Ecological Blue Flag Program

We are very proud to announce that the Pacuare River recently received the highest rating from the Costa Rican government’s Ecological Blue Flag Program for River Watersheds. Rafting and kayaking experts have long considered the Pacuare to be one of the world’s top whitewater rivers, primarily due to the quality of its environment and rainforest scenery. This Blue Flag rating confirms that it is an exemplary natural wonder.

Aventuras Naturales and the Pacuare Lodge spearheaded the process to get the Ecological Blue Flag Program to recognize the Pacuare River’s healthy environment and clean water. This has included working with local communities to involved them in the river’s protection. The company has always taken great care to ensure that the Pacuare Lodge has no negative impact on the river and together with local farmers and guests, is planting trees in the Pacuare watershed. This designation by the Ecological Blue Flag Program for River Watersheds – a pioneer project on a global level – is yet another recognition that the Pacuare is one of Costa Rica’s natural jewels.